If you’re an LPC Associate looking to start your own private practice, you’re in the right place! This guide will walk you through just about everything you need to know to get started. We’ll cover the basics like setting up a PLLC and obtaining liability insurance, as well as more advanced topics like building a website and getting listed in directories. So whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been thinking about making the switch to private practice, this guide has got you covered!
What It Means to Be in Private Practice
One of the biggest benefits of private practice is that you’re your own boss. This means you get to call the shots and make all the decisions about your business. You can choose the hours you work, the type of clients you see, and how much you want to charge. How much an LPC Associate can make in Texas varies, so starting a private practice now can help associates achieve wealth sooner. This level of control can be a real game-changer for therapists who are looking for more flexibility and autonomy in their careers.
Of course, private practice also comes with its own set of challenges. When you’re the boss, you’re also responsible for everything that goes on in your business. This can be a lot of pressure, but it’s also an exciting opportunity to build something that’s truly your own.
If you’re ready to take the leap into private practice, here’s what you need to know!
Why Starting a Private Practice Might Be a Good Idea for You
If you’re thinking about starting your own private practice, there are a few things to consider first. Private practice can be a great option for LPC Associates who are looking for more flexibility and autonomy in their careers, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. So before making the switch, it’s important to ask yourself some questions:
– What are my goals for private practice?
– What type of clients do I want to see?
– How much control do I want over my career?
– Am I ready to take on the responsibility of being my own boss?
Owning a business isn’t for everyone. Some people prefer to have stability and predictability in their income. This can be achieved with time, but being a business owner can be quite a roller coaster at times.
If you’re still with me and want to start a private practice, buckle up. Let’s dive in!
The Steps to Start a Private Practice (before you see your first client)
There are quite a few things you need to do before you even see your first client. It may seem overwhelming, but take them one at a time and you’ll be done before you know it!
Create a PLLC
The first step in starting your private practice is to create a professional limited liability company (PLLC). This will protect you from being held personally liable for any debts or liabilities that may arise from your business. You can form a PLLC online through the Secretary of State’s office in your state.
You can pay for a service or find an attorney to complete this for you, but that’s extra money that you don’t really need to spend. Once you log into the Secretary of State’s website, you can find all the information you need to form your new business entity. In total, it’ll cost you $300 to create a business in the state of Texas.
You will need to determine what you want the name of your business to be, but don’t sweat this too much. Clients aren’t going to choose you because of your really awesome business name. Most of my clients probably couldn’t even tell you the name of my business. Besides, there are major corporations out there with downright lousy names (I’m looking at you, Amazon).
I suggest you have a few name ideas in mind as you’ll search the state’s website to ensure your business name hasn’t already been claimed before you apply for your PLLC. You can’t file a PLLC if the name is the same or even really similar to another business already registered with the state. Besides, you really don’t want to confuse potential clients and accidentally send them to another practice because your names are too much alike.
If you’re really uncertain what you’d like your business name to be, you can always create [Your Name], PLLC. You can also file a DBA (doing business as) later if you want to advertise under a different moniker. If you’re planning to eventually grow into a group practice, you can even name your business [Your Name] and Associates, PLLC. With your new business in hand, it’s now time to register with the IRS.
Apply for an Employer Identification Number (EIN)
An Employer Identification Number (EIN) is a nine-digit number that’s used to identify businesses for tax purposes. You’ll need an EIN if you want to open a business checking account or hire employees. You can apply for an EIN online through the IRS website.
There is no cost to apply for an EIN, and you should receive your number immediately when you apply online. You can also apply via mail, but this will take up to four weeks to process.
Get Liability Insurance
Liability insurance is a must-have for any private practice. This type of insurance will protect you from being held liable for any damages that may occur as a result of your business activities. You can get liability insurance through an insurance agent or broker, or you can purchase it online. Many therapists utilize CPH & Associates or HPSO for their policies, but there are many other alternatives. The cost of liability insurance varies and increases the more clients you expect to see. For most therapists starting a private practice, it should run you a couple hundred for the year.
You may also want to consider getting general liability (also known as slip-and-fall) insurance if you plan to conduct in-person therapy. This type of insurance will protect you if someone slips and falls in your waiting room or a painting you’ve hung over your couch crashes down on their head, just as an example. This can typically be bundled with your professional liability insurance for a few dollars more per month.
Some private practice therapists choose to get both professional liability and general liability insurance through the same company, while others maintain separate policies. It’s really up to you and what makes you feel most comfortable.
Open a Business Checking Account
Next, you’ll need to open a business checking account. This will help you keep track of your expenses and income, and it will make it easier to file your taxes at the end of the year. You’ll also need a business checking account if you plan to accept credit card payments from clients.
You can open a business checking account at most banks and credit unions. When you’re comparison shopping, be sure to look for a bank that doesn’t charge monthly fees and has a good reputation for customer service.
You’ll need to deposit money into your new account to get it started. I recommend starting with at least $500 so that you can cover any unexpected expenses that come up.
Now that you have a business checking account, you’ll need to get a business credit card. This will come in handy for things like office supplies, marketing expenses, and travel.
Make sure to use your business credit card for all of your business-related expenses, and be sure to pay off the balance in full each month. This will help you avoid paying interest, and it will also help you build up your business credit score.
Now that you have a business checking account and a business credit card, you’re ready to start looking for office space.
Secure Office Space
If you’re planning to meet clients in person or, like me, need a quiet space outside the home, you’ll want to start looking for office space. If you’re planning to work exclusively online and have an appropriate place to do so in your home, you may skip this step. (And consider yourself lucky. With four children under 10, that definitely isn’t an option for me!)
There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re searching for the perfect office. First, you’ll want to make sure the location is convenient for your clients. You’ll also want to find an office that’s comfortable and private and has enough space for you to conduct therapy sessions.
Another thing to consider is whether you want a private office or a shared space. Shared spaces can be more affordable, but they may not offer the same level of privacy that a private office does.
Once you’ve found a few potential offices, it’s time to start negotiating. Be sure to ask about things like parking, utilities, and janitorial services. You should also ask for a discount if you’re willing to sign a longer lease.
You can also contact other therapists in your area and ask about sub-leasing an office from them. This can help to keep your overhead down when you’re just starting out as you’re not only saving on rent, but in many cases, the offices are already going to be furnished.
Pro Tip: Chiropractors, massage therapists, and other helping professionals may have a suitable office for you to see clients in that they would be willing to let you use for a fee.
Obtain the Necessary Paperwork for Clients
The last step before you begin to see clients in your brand new private practice is to ensure you have the appropriate consent forms and other necessary documents needed for therapy.
Rule 681.41 Subsection (e) of the Texas Administrative Code states:
Regardless of setting, a licensee must provide counseling only in the context of a professional relationship. Prior to providing services, a licensee must obtain from an individual a signed informed consent, signed written receipt of information, or in the case of involuntary treatment a copy of the appropriate court order, including the following: (1) fees and arrangements for payment; (2) counseling purposes, goals, and techniques; (3) any restrictions placed on the license by the Council; (4) the limits on confidentiality; (5) any intent of the licensee to use another individual to provide counseling treatment intervention to the client; (6) supervision of the licensee by another licensed health care professional including the name, address, contact information and qualifications of the supervisor; (7) the name, address and telephone number of the Council for the purpose of reporting violations of the Act or this chapter; and (8) the established plan for the custody and control of the client’s mental health records in the event of the licensee’s death or incapacity, or the termination of the licensee’s counseling practice.
This isn’t just a CYA; it is a requirement by the state. You must review this information with new clients before providing therapy. In my practice, I utilize two separate forms for this: Informed Consent and Practice Policies. The informed consent covers exactly what it sounds like and provides information about the potential benefits and risks of psychotherapy. It also includes my license information and contact information for the board in the event that a client wishes to file a complaint.
My practice policies paperwork covers things like my fees and cancellation policy as well my social media policy and a few other odds and ends such as the benefits and drawbacks of online therapy.
One of the benefits of choosing me as your LPC Supervisor is that I provide you with all the necessary documents, so you don’t have to worry about stitching them together or paying an attorney oodles of money to create them for you.
Communicating with Clients
It’s important that you also have a secure way to communicate with clients and prospective clients. There are many HIPAA-compliant options for phone and email. Many therapists I know use HushMail or G-Suite. Simple Practice also offers an encrypted chat option where you can send and receive messages from clients; this is only for current clients, however, and does not allow communication with prospective clients.
There are plenty of resources you can find about HIPAA-this and HIPAA-that. Do some research and ask questions in your community. I’m writing this guide so that it is helpful for a long time to come; technology and the rules that govern its use change rapidly, and it’s important we stay informed. The last thing I want is to get you in trouble by providing outdated information.
How to Start Finding Clients for Your New Private Practice
Once you’ve got all of your ducks in a row, it’s time to start marketing your private practice. This can be done in a variety of ways, but I’m going to focus on a few primary methods.
Get Listed with Various Directories
First, be sure to list your private practice with online directories like Psychology Today, Therapy Den, and Good Therapy. I don’t personally list with many directories, and I don’t like Psychology Today (but that’s a post for another day). I’ve successfully built my business to not rely on online directories. They are a great starting point for many practices.
It’s also important to set up a Google My Business listing, and you can even create a professional Facebook page. This will help new clients find you when they are searching for a therapist in their area.
There are also niche-specific directories that can help you get in front of your ideal clients. Hint: you need to identify your ideal client(s) and make your message clear. As therapists, it’s important that we stand out from the crowd.
Yes, as an LPC Associate you will likely want to work with a wide variety of clients. Don’t worry; you can pivot or change your niche along the way. To get your creative juices flowing, finish this sentence: I want to be the go-to therapist for [blank]…
Create a Website
Let me make this clear: you need a website for your private practice. It is the single best investment you can make in your new practice. I don’t spend any money on marketing for my private practice because clients find me through Google searches.
Your website doesn’t have to be anything fancy to get started; a simple WordPress or SquareSpace site will do. Don’t go with a free website builder like Wix or Weebly as these are not built for SEO. There’s no point in investing time and energy in something that doesn’t have the potential to help you grow.
If you want to build a WordPress website, I highly recommend FlyWheel* for hosting. I’ve been with them for over a year and host all of my therapist websites with them as well. They offer fast, secure website hosting for an affordable rate, starting at $15/mo. I would avoid GoDaddy and BlueHost as they have become unreliable recently. I’ve used both and was so glad to have made the move to FlyWheel.
Be sure to include your contact information, location, and how you would like clients to contact you on your new website. Make it clear what the next step is- whether it’s to call, email, or schedule a consultation. We refer to this as a Call-to-Action (CTA). It should be really obvious to prospective clients what your CTA is.
Over time, you will add more and more content to your website. At a minimum, you’ll want to create a homepage, an about page, and a contact page. Later, you can add service pages (one for each issue or specialty) and a blog.
Yes, I want you to blog. As a new practice owner, you’ll have time to dedicate to writing great content that will help bring in clients for years to come. The more quality content you have on your website, the more likely you position yourself to be found when people search online for a therapist near them.
I created my own therapy website and now build websites for fellow therapists. WordPress can have a steep learning curve, and you probably didn’t go to school to learn how to do it yourself. Hiring someone to build a website for you can cost you thousands of dollars you probably don’t have.
That is unless you hire me. *wink* Not only am I an LPC-Supervisor in the state of Texas, but I also run a successful private practice and website design agency for therapists. No, there are not enough hours in the day. I offer website services for just $99/mo. This includes website design, copywriting (which most website designers don’t even do), hosting, and maintenance. It really is a heckuva deal. Learn more at https://marketingfortherapists.online/therapist-website-design/
If you decide to work with me as your supervisor, part of our work together will be to guide you through the process of building a great website. You have the option of having me build the site for you or DIY it with my guidance.
As an LPC Associate, one of the best ways to gain clients for your private practice is through networking. This can be done in a variety of ways, but I’m going to focus on a few primary methods.
Reach out to local therapists who share a similar niche or specialty. There may be times that another therapist in your area needs to provide a referral- they may be full, or the client may need a lower rate for services. There are often local Facebook groups for therapists that you can also join.
Join local networking groups. These can be therapy-specific or general business networking groups. Remember to be clear about your ideal client so that the people you meet know exactly who to send your way. This is one of the major reasons you need to identify your ideal client: so people can remember what you do and who you serve.
Let your friends and family members know that you set up shop. While you cannot provide services to friends or family members, they may know someone who needs your help. It can also be helpful to post on Facebook that you are accepting new clients. You never know who may see it and reach out for help.
Get in touch with your primary care physician and other providers. Reaching out to local doctor’s offices can be helpful, but the most helpful may be to start with the one that you already have a relationship with. Again, let them know you’re accepting new clients and who you help. See a pattern here?
Let everyone you know know that you’re accepting clients and who to send your way. Be sure they know how to tell people to reach you as well.
You may also consider running a Google Ads campaign. This can be a bit pricey, but if you target your ads well, it can be worth the investment. When I first started my practice, I was able to quit my previous job because I filled my practice using Google Ads.
Getting your website to the top of Google through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can take time as creating content is not an overnight thing, and depending on where you are located, it may take more content to convince Google you’re an expert in your specific niche.
Again, a benefit of having a specialty is that it’s easier to demonstrate to Google that you’re an expert in trauma therapy than it is therapy in general.
When it comes to Google Ads, it’s important to know that Google doesn’t really care if you’re successful; they just want your money. Setting up a successful Google Ads campaign requires ongoing maintenance and tweaking to ensure you’re not wasting money.
I do recommend that you hire an expert to at least get you started. You’ll end up saving more money than you’ll pay them. Trust me.
There are other paid advertising options available including Facebook Ads and even ads on Reddit, but Google Ads is the one that I have experience with and can recommend.
Starting a private practice as an LPC Associate can be a bit daunting, but if you follow the steps outlined in this guide, you’ll be well on your way to success.
Do you have any questions about starting a private practice? Leave them in the comments below and I’ll do my best to answer them!
If you found this guide helpful, be sure to share it with your friends! And if you’re ready to take the next step and want an LPC Supervisor who can guide you step-by-step, get in touch. I provide quality online supervision in the state of Texas for LPC Associates who want to start a private practice. Schedule a free 30-minute Zoom call below.
*I may receive a small commission if you sign up for hosting through my affiliate link above. This does not increase the cost of the service for you in any way, and I would never recommend a product unless I truly believe in it.